Job-creating development paid for with union pension funds
By SHERI GASSAWAY
The AFL-CIO Building Investment Trust (BIT) recently hosted a labor appreciation luncheon for the union tradesmen and women working on its new Encore at Forest Park project.
The $51 million development is a state-of-the-art, five-story apartment building with 247 rental units located at 5700 Highlands Plaza Drive in St. Louis. It will also feature a courtyard pool and barbecue area, self-service pet spa, dog park, fitness center, coffee bar, three-story underground parking garage and 24-hour security.
Encore, a joint venture with Balke Brown Transwestern (2B Residential), is located next to its sister project, the 278-unit Cortona at Forest Park apartment complex, another BIT investment with Balke Brown Transwestern.
BIT utilizes union pension funds to provide equity for projects like Encore, creating good union jobs and a solid return on investment of the pension funds. To qualify for BIT financing, developers must commit to using all union construction labor to build the project and union labor to maintain and service the development once it is completed.
Dozens of union construction workers attended the luncheon at Encore, which is in the final stages of construction, is the eighth BIT real estate development in St. Louis and is projected to have created 500,000 union construction hours when completed.
A CYCLE THAT UPLIFTS WORKING FAMILIES
BIT is more than a real estate investment company, said Lynn Fieldman, AFL-CIO Investment Trust Corporation vice president of construction and labor relations. The trust creates a cycle that uplifts working families into the middle class.
“Your work is greatly appreciated, and it’s necessary,” Feldman told union workers at the luncheon. “There aren’t enough words to describe how excited I am to see this project shape up, and it wouldn’t be possible without all of you. In the coming weeks, as the walls you put together fill up, the income collected will go toward pension plans of union members.”
Missouri Senator Gina Walsh (D-Bellefontaine Neighbors), president of the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council and a retired member of Heat and Frost Insulators Local 1, asked workers to accept her sincerest thanks for their work on the project.
“What you produce here is just another tool in your toolbox for union employment,” she said. “You are giving your leadership the power to reinvest your pension funds in something like this to benefit the community. We are a family, and we need to continue to use these tools to express our rights as working people.”
SHOT IN THE ARM FOR UNION TRADESPEOPLE
John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council, applauded the efforts of the workers and said the BIT program has been a great shot in the arm for union tradespeople and their families.
“It has created thousands of union jobs and uses your pension money to reinvest and build projects like this on time, under budget and with quality craftsmanship. All you have to do when you walk into this lobby is look around,” he said. “It’s an amazing testament to your hard work.”
Pat White, president of the St. Louis Labor Council, echoed Stiffler’s thoughts and said, “I want to thank all the men and women who come to work every day, and I’d also like to thank the Building Investment Trust. They’ve made quite an investment here in St. Louis.”
The AFL-CIO BIT is an open-ended, commingled group trust, operating with one of the most comprehensive union labor policies in the U.S. real estate industry, helping to create union jobs throughout the country. The BIT is managed by PNC Bank, National Association (PNC Bank), as Trustee. PNC Realty Investors (PRI) provides investment advisory services.
Since beginning in 1988, BIT has invested over $7 billion to finance 41.2 million square feet of commercial real estate and just under 16,000 apartment units in the United States.
LOCAL BIT PROJECTS
BIT has invested in nine projects totaling $180 million in acquisition and development in the Greater St. Louis area, including 524 housing units and 1.48 million square feet of commercial real estate with a current net asset value of $114 million, and a total of 11 projects in Missouri, generating 1.68 million hours of union construction jobs.
ENCORE AT FOREST PARK
Encore offers studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments with 10 different floorplans. Leasing has already begun. For more information, call 314-833-6100 or visit online at encore.apartments.